COLUMBIA — Forbes.com put Columbia in the No. 8 spot on its list of best small cities for businesses and careers.
The list was published Sept. 13.
Columbia has been in the top 10 on the same list for the past three years: No. 3 in 2007, No. 5 in 2008 and No. 5 again in 2009.
The city received high marks this year for educational attainment (No. 7 out of 184 cities); number of colleges (No. 10); cost of doing business (No. 35); and net migration (No. 37).
The top five small cities were Sioux Falls, S.D.; Iowa City, Iowa; Manhattan, Kan.; Bismarck, N.D.; and Logan, Utah.
Forbes looked at cities with populations under 245,000. Columbia’s population is around 100,000, although Forbes counted a metro-area population of 166,000.
The online business publication looked at 12 factors to rate the cities.
- Number of four-year colleges, with extra credit for highly rated schools.
- Cost of doing business, based on cost of labor, energy, taxes and office space.
- Cost of living, based on cost of housing, utilities, transportation and other expenditures.
- Crimes per 100,000 residents.
- Culture and leisure, based on museums, theaters, golf courses, sports teams and other activities.
- Economic growth projected, based on a three-year annualized figure.
- Educational attainment or share of population over 25 with a bachelor's degree or higher.
- Income growth, a five-year annualized figure.
- Job growth, a five-year annualized figure.
- Projected job growth, a three-year annualized figure.
- Net migration, a five-year annualized figure
- Subprime mortgages as a percent of total originations between 2006 and 2008.
Education was a factor when IBM chose to come to Columbia, said Bernie Andrews, vice president of the Regional Economic Development Inc.
“(For) a company like IBM, one of the main reasons for Columbia was the availability of IT graduates and work force,” he said.
After that, he cited other factors that come into play: available real estate, quality of life, incentives, cost of housing and availability of housing.
Andrews said workers are a huge part of bringing businesses to Columbia.
“They are not going to look at your community if they don’t think that you already have a work force in place,” he said.
When IBM was considering relocating its data center to Columbia, it assessed the city's labor availability first, Andrews said.
Carrie Gartner, director of The District, said the diversity of businesses in Columbia is also important.
“We have a lot of different industries here in Columbia," she said. "You can come in and you have a lot of options as an employee."
Don Laird, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, noted that REDI has been a big part of Columbia’s job growth as well as the city, Boone County and the colleges here.
“It is important that we provide for people who want to live here,” Laird said. "You do that by making sure it’s a good business community with a good reputation.”
In 2006, Analytical Biochemistry Laboratories, Inc., made a decision to remain in Columbia and expand after the state, county and local governments offered an incentive package.
Kristein King, vice president of marketing, called Columbia a great place for ABC Labs because it “is a hub of scientific research.” King also said Columbia is an attractive location for the company’s employees.
“I think that something Columbia offers is that there is a great quality of life,” King said. “It’s possible to have a work-life balance that isn’t available in some of the larger cities.
“It’s complimentary of our community, and hopefully in the future we will do them better,” Laird said.